TERRORISM AND THE LAW

Court orders immediate release of ETA terrorist Del Río after European ruling

Prosecutors said Strasbourg judgment gave judiciary “no choice” but to free the 55-year-old, convicted of 23 murders

“The sentence gives us no choice.” That was the conclusion of a report by the Prosecutor’s Office at Spain’s High Court in which the immediate release of the terrorist Inés del Río is requested in accordance with a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which on Monday said that the ETA militant was unjustly being held in prison under the so-called “Parot doctrine.”

The penal chamber of the High Court subsequently ordered the immediate release of Del Río on Tuesday morning. The 55-year-old has spent 26 years behind bars after being convicted of 23 murders.

After being arrested in 1987, Del Río was sentenced to 3,800 years in prison. The 1973 criminal code, then in force, established a maximum prison stay of 30 years (it is now 40), but it was possible to reduce this amount significantly through penitentiary benefits involving taking courses and doing workshops. In some cases, prisoners could walk free after less than 20 years. Under this system, Del Río was scheduled to be released on July 2, 2008, but a month and a half before that date the High Court applied the Parot doctrine to her and moved her release date to July 27, 2017.

In some cases, prisoners could walk free after less than 20 years

The doctrine, which has been declared contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights by the Strasbourg court, consisted in applying reductions to individual sentences – one of Del Río’s 23 counts of murder, for example – thus ensuring that the maximum of 30 years would be served out.

“The [ECHR] ruling is clear in that it indicates the required measure to restore the right that is considered to have been infringed, and it is no other than to guarantee the release of Mrs Del Río as soon as possible,” the prosecutors’ report said, according to court sources.

Despite the government´s argument that the European ruling only applies to the case of Del Río, dozens of other ETA convicts are expected to become eligible for release in the coming weeks and months.

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